In 2020, Evelyn was the 9th most popular name in the U.S. for baby girls. It’s beautiful, but maybe you want a baby name like Evelyn that’s a little less popular. The last time Evelyn was almost that high was 100 years ago; in 1920, it came in at number 12. Around the turn of the century, it was also a male name, and the most famous Evelyn may still be the English writer Evelyn Waugh, born in 1903. The name has always been significantly more popular as a girls’ name, and hasn’t broken the top 1000 most common male names since 1930.
The name Evelyn has a rich ancestry across different countries and faith traditions. It’s a diminutive of Eve, a name of Hebrew origins meaning “living,” “breath,” or “mother of all mankind” (in the Jewish and Christian faiths, Eve is the name of the first living woman.) It also comes from the Germanic name
Aveline, meaning both “strength” and “little bird” (the Latin word for bird is “avis.”) It also has roots in the French word “aveline” meaning “hazlenut.”
During the middle of the century, the name fell out of the top 100s for girls, but it’s risen dramatically in popularity since the year 2000, and has been in the top 10 four times in the past five years. It’s easy to see why: it’s an elegant, beautiful name that lends itself to lots of cute nicknames, such as Evie or Lynn.
If you love the feel of the name but want a slightly different spin, one of these baby names may catch your eye.
1 Hadley Justin Paget / Getty images
This cute name didn’t crack the list of the Social Security Administration’s list of top 1000 names for girls until 1998 – but it’s been rocketing up the charts since then, and was the 111th most popular name in 2020. Despite its modern popularity, this English name feels timeless in the same way that Evelyn does. It means “heather meadow.”
This French name means “from the hill by the lake” — maybe that’s why it sounds so lovely and peaceful. It has a similar classic feel as Mary or Margaret, but feels a little more fresh and distinct.
This Spanish and Italian name means “peace.” A little girl with this name will have a built-in lullaby in “Goodnight, Irene” which has been covered by musical artists from Eric Clapton to Johnny Cash. A related and equally beautiful name is the Greek name “Eirene” (pronounced E-rain-ee), also meaning “peace.”
4 Elyse (or Elise)
This lovely name is an alternative to both Evelyn and the always-popular Elizabeth or Eliza. Neither of its spellings have cracked the top 100 names in the past 20 years. But the name very sweetly means “God’s promise” or “pledge to God” and has Hebrew origins.
This elegant name lends itself to all sorts of nicknames, from Evie to Lena. Like Elyse, Evangeline hasn’t been in the top 100 names in years, but stays within the top 500, making it unusual but not unheard of. It’s befitting that such a dramatic and beautiful name should be the subject of an epic poem: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous epic poem “Evangeline” tells the story of a young girl cast out of her homeland on a quest to find her lost love. The name has Greek origins and means “bearer of good news.”
The name Genevieve hit its highest popularity in the U.S. in 2019, coming in at number 168. Like Evangeline, this name lends itself to all kinds of cute nicknames (“Gen,” “Ginny,” and “Vivi,” for example), but has a stately elegance that will befit a little girl who wants to take on the world. In the Roman Catholic faith, Genevieve is a saint whose prayers saved Paris from a siege. A little Genevieve also might be delighted to find that she shares a name with the beloved dog in then
Madeline books. The name has alternately been translated from its French roots as “woman of the tribe” or “the race of women.” 7 Amaryllis
Amaryllis is both a beautiful
flower and a beautiful name, and musical theater fans will instantly recognize it as belonging to the little girl in The Music Man. It’s a more unusual choice, and has not been in the top thousand given names since 2000. In Greek mythology, Amaryllis was a nymph who had an unrequited love for a shepherd; she sought his love by turning her body into the deep-red flower that bears her name. It comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning “to sparkle.” 8 Vivian or Vivianna
The name Vivian comes from the Latin word meaning “life” or “alive” and has the same roots as the wonderful word “vivacious.” If you choose this name, your little one may never stop moving! The name just barely fell out of the top 100 most popular names in 2020, coming in at number 101. (Vivianna is significantly more unusual, coming in at number 1,182.) The name is popular in Italy and in various Spanish-speaking countries.
If you’re looking for a name that ends with “lyn,” this beautiful name might fit the bill. The name Jocelyn has several meanings, including “happy” and “playful.” Originally the name was a male name, and most famously belonged to a monk who was a literary patron in Scotland in the Middle Ages. Now, the name is usually used for women, and is shared by characters in both
The Walking Dead and Schitt’s Creek. The name cracked the top 100 in the aughts and early 2010s, but since has fallen to around 200th in popularity. 10 Everly
This name has a more modern feel than the name Evelyn but retains a similar sound. Everly also has a very fun meaning: the name is of English origin and means “wild boar in woodland clearing.” (So, if you use this name, it might be time to stash away anything breakable and start baby-proofing right away!) The name had a bump in popularity after 2013, when Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan used the name for their daughter. In recent years, it’s been in the top 40 to 50 names.
11 Leonore or Leonora
In recent years, the name “Eleanor” has become nearly as popular as Evelyn, but lovely variations on the name like Leonore or Leonora remain unusual, and haven’t appeared in the top thousand names in the United States since the 1940s. The name has origins in English, Greek and Italian, and means “light” or “compassion.” A little Leonore could go by “Nora” or “Leo” as well.
Pronounced “Shi-von” this elegant Irish name means “God is gracious.” The name Siobhan (and how to pronounce it) may become much more familiar to U.S. parents in the coming years because of Siobhan Roy (nickanmed “Shiv”) on the TV show
Succession. In the United States, the name’s popularity peaked in the late 1980s, but it has yet to crack the top thousand. 13 Ivy
This classic name has grown in popularity in recent years, but still isn’t in the top 50 most popular girl’s names. A little Ivy will find lots of fun characters who share her name, from the spunky Ivy in the
series to the heroine of the Christmas classic Ivy + Bean . The Story of Holly and Ivy 14 Eloise
Famously the name of the mischievous little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel in Kay Thompson’s 1950s books, the name Eloise has jumped up the charts every year since 2008 — in 2020, it was the 138th most popular name. A French name that means “famous warrior,” Eloise is a classic name that lends itself to many cute nicknames, like “Ellie” and “Lulu” for starters.
A lovely alternative that combines the beauty of the names Emma and Evelyn, “Emmeline” has roots in the Latin language and means “peaceful home” (what every parent longs for). But a little Emmeline will share her name with a woman who was willing to shake things up:
Emmeline Pankhurst was a British activist who was instrumental in getting women in the UK the right to vote, and was imprisoned many times in her quest to do so. This pretty name can also be spelled Emmalyn, Emmalynn, or Emmaline, among other spellings. 16 Esmira or Asmira
Spelled with an “E,” the name Esmira comes from the French word for “loved”; with an A it comes from Arabic and means “heaven’s flower.” With either spelling it’s a sweet and unusual choice for a precious little girl.
Watch out: Etta means “ruler of the home” (though that’s probably what your newborn will be no matter what name you give them!) This name started as a nickname for Antoinetta or Henrietta, but is now a lovely choice on its own. (The most famous Etta, Etta James, was born Jamsetta Hawkins.) This name just squeaked into the top thousand given names for girls in 2017, meaning your little Etta would likely be the only one in her school.
Pronounced “EE-fa,” this gorgeous name of Irish origin means “beautiful” or “radiant” and comes from the Gaelic word
aoibh (beauty). Though it’s in the top 20 most popular names in Ireland, it is still a very unusual name in the United States. It’s perfect for a family that wants to honor their Irish heritage and who won’t mind teaching others how to pronounce it.
A lot of the names on this list have seen a similar trajectory to the name Evelyn–high popularity in the early 1900s, a big dip down, and then another steep rise in the new century. Names with that trajectory really feel timeless, and not dated in the same way that names that were big in a certain decade (and then fell off the charts) tend to feel. Whatever name you choose, these classy choices are sure to set your little girl up for a lifetime of hearing “oh, what a pretty name!” whenever she introduces herself.
This article was originally published on
Dec. 25, 2021